Valedictorian Christopher High School John A. Perales Jr.’s speech from the 2019 commencement ceremony
Fellow graduates, teachers, staff, school board members and distinguished guests. Welcome to the graduation for the Class of 2019. Before I begin, I’d like to thank my mother, my father, my two sisters, my Grammy, mi abuelo y mi abuela, my aunt, my uncle and my best friends, Malcolm, Nick, Ian and Vanessa. Without them I could never be up here today.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Words spoken in a time of stress, emotional turmoil and uncertainty. A time many of you may be going through right now, as the future stares you directly in the face. We sit here and believe ourselves to be at a crossroads of sorts, a fork in the road with one path to our highest aspirations, and the other to a life of regret and disappointment. Failure and fear of failure are the taboo of the world, a pain and an experience all too real for all of us. Class of 2019, we’ve all failed at one point, the most successful people in business, leadership, and sports have failed thousands of times—and yet many more than them have succeeded!
Still, many of us and much of our society view failure and success as complete opposite ends of the spectrum. This view of the world leads one to believe that you either win or you lose. Theoretically, this is true. For example, we tend to believe that you can’t really half-fail or half-succeed. However, today, I am here to challenge this perception—the idea that we view failure as an end point, a finality. Rather, I propose that success is an evolution of failure. Failure is nothing more than a learning moment in our path to success. Failure is the catalyst for our dreams and not the end of them. I’d bet that all of us sitting here today can point to examples where we failed: an exam, a project, at work, a relationship or perhaps a competition. At the time, this may have felt terrible, shameful and in many cases feel like the end of the world—maybe the end of your journey to success. It’s no wonder that failure can lead to fear—this fear of failure will lead us to avoid failing at all costs. The most expensive cost being our very own success!
As awful as our failure experiences may have been, It is important that we walk out of these situations not thinking, “Well I’m never doing that again,” and instead ask, “What can I do better next time, or how can this event help me grow as a person?” I talk to so many people who say that their biggest fear is failing. It is counterintuitive to believe that a fear of failure will lead to an increase in success, when in reality a fear of failure leads to a lack of trying. It’s written right in our gym: Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” Everybody here has seen those words, but how often do we really apply that idea in our own lives? We need to shift our perspective toward a more positive outlook and believe that failure is simply a steppingstone to success.
Class of 2019, all of you here are going on to different chapters in your lives! Don’t allow the fear of failure to keep you from your destiny! Many of you are preparing to attend incredible colleges and universities—don’t be afraid to fail.
Don’t allow fear to keep you from achieving at high levels! Some of you will enter the workforce, and that is not easy. You thought your parents were tough; wait to you run into a difficult boss. Those of you entering our military, thank you and may God bless and keep you safe! Our armed forces are definitely not easy. What I’m trying to say is that we’re all going to encounter success in the future, but it is virtually impossible that everybody here will not come face to face with the sting of defeat, and that’s OK. The important thing is to not give up, to work past the agony and pain of failure and keep pressing forward because out of failure, success arises. However, if you don’t persevere, and if you allow failure and the fear of failure to control you, you will never discover success. We have all heard of the person who gave up too soon, only to realize they were inches from the biggest success of their life. Don’t give up early because of failure, when the thrill of victory could be just around the corner. Never stop chasing your goals and dreams. There will be difficult times along the path, but they’re all there for a reason—use them as a step forward rather than a reason to stop. Every setback makes you stronger and pushes you further into the throes of accomplishment.
Class of 2019 as we move on with our lives, I wish all of you the very best! Go out and live the life you dream of!